When looking at on-screen interracial romance during the decade of the 1970s it is important to take analyze the attitudes and feelings of the nation towards black-white couples and blacks at the time. On April 20, 1971 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that busing of students may be ordered to achieve racial desegregation. In small towns across the country laws against interracial marriage still existed and in 1970 less than 0.7% of marriages were between interracial couples (310,000 total).
Movie and television roles for black actors significantly increased in the 1970s. More than 200 “Blaxploitation” films were produced throughout the decade. However, many of these films did not contain any black-white relationships. These “Blaxploitation” films depicted blacks as violent, gore driven, sex addicts. These depictions mimicked the stereotypes of blacks during the decade.
In 1970, a film entitled The Great White Hope was released. The film portrayed the life of the famous black boxer, Jack Johnson. The movie details the champion black boxer’s relationship with his white female companion. They are struggling to survive in the white boxing establishment, which is constantly looking for ways to knock them down. A tagline of the movie was, “He could beat any white man in the world. He just couldn’t beat them all”.
In 1971, Honky was released. Honky is about a rich black girl who falls in love with a poor white man.
One movie, produced in 1975, that involved black-white relations was Mandingo. The film was focused around a black slave trained to fight other slaves. Hammond, the slave owner, ends up raping one of his female slaves in the film. Mede, the slave trained to fight, then sleeps with Hammond’s white fiancé. The film was controversial and had multiple interracial love affairs.
A significant couple during the 1970s is the interracial couple next door on The Jeffersons. Tom and Helen Willis were seen as the first black-white television couple on a long running TV show.
Please enjoy this 1970s classic!